The Real Impact of Negative Business Reviews and 5 Ways to Come Out on Top

Topic: Negative Reviews

Your customers’ satisfaction is at the heart of everything you do. So when someone writes a negative business review for your products or services -- or even an experience they had with your brand -- it stings.

Negative reviews can hurt your business. But how much of an impact do they have? 

The good news is, getting negative business reviews every now and then isn’t going to ruin your business. Negative reviews are inevitable, even for the most customer-centric brands. After all, there’s simply no way to please every single person every single time. 

But the way you react to negative business reviews has a huge impact on how much of a negative impact they have.

Let’s take a closer look at the impact of negative business reviews, as well as five things you can do to soften the blow of bad reviews.

How Negative Reviews Impact Your Business

Today, a large (and growing) number of shoppers use reviews to make informed purchase decisions. According to a survey from our friends at PowerReviews, a staggering 89% of consumers consider reviews to be an essential resource when making purchase decisions. 

Of course, positive reviews help your business. According to BrightLocal, 91% of consumers indicate that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.

Negative reviews, on the other hand, can hurt your business in a number of ways.  

Negative Business Reviews Damage Customer Relationships

If a customer spends time writing a negative review, they’re obviously upset. Perhaps they’ve tried to resolve their issue in other ways -- maybe by contacting your customer support team -- and they’ve written a negative review as a last resort. 

If you ignore the negative review, the customer will feel their feedback isn’t valued. And there’s a good chance you’ll lose them for good. A study from PwC found that a third of customers will stop doing business with a brand they love after just one bad experience. 

And that loss is costly to your brand. According to a HuffPost article, it’s six to seven times more expensive to attract a customer than to retain an existing one.

What’s more, if a customer doesn’t feel heard or valued, they might go on to leave negative feedback about your business on other review sites or social media, which will cause further damage to your reputation. 

Negative Reviews Impact Sales

Average Star Ratings and Number of Orders - Yotpo

All of the ratings for a given product are factored into the average star rating that’s displayed for that product. That means every negative review you get brings your average star rating down. And data from our friends at Yotpo tells us that shoppers are far less likely to purchase products with low star ratings, compared to those with higher star ratings. 

What’s more, the content of even one negative review might be enough to drive a shopper away from one of your products, even if it’s got a high average star rating. The same BrightLocal survey we mentioned earlier found that 82% of consumers are put off by a negative review. 

For example, let’s say a parent is shopping for a step stool their toddler can use to help in the kitchen. They come across this model that has a great average star rating of 4.5.

Toddler step stool example

But when they dig into the reviews, they come across some bad ones, including a few like this one that mention the product toppling over when a child tries to climb in. 

Toddler Step Stool safety issue example

Of course, the child’s safety is a priority for the parent. Despite the rest of the reviews being overwhelmingly positive, this one is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. They don’t buy the product. And the brand loses a sale.

Negative Reviews Damage a Brand’s Reputation

According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, 81% of consumers say trust is a key factor in deciding whether or not to purchase from a brand. Customer-centric brands work hard to earn consumer trust. But when consumers read reviews from other shoppers that mention quality or safety issues, it can cause them to lose trust in that brand.

For example, this shopper wrote a review indicating a hair dye product caused chemical burns on his face. Reading this might cause future shoppers to distrust the brand. This particular review is especially damaging because the brand opted not to respond. As a result, future shoppers might think the brand isn’t concerned about the health and safety of its customers. Health and Safety - Chemical Burns Example

Five Ways to Mitigate the Impact of Negative Business Reviews 

There’s no doubt negative reviews can be damaging to your brand. But there are some key actions you can take to lessen the impact of the occasional negative review.

1. Respond to Negative Business Reviews

A thoughtful response to a negative review can turn a bad situation around and help you win back an unhappy customer. In fact, according to our friends at Bazaarvoice, up to 70% of dissatisfied shoppers will do business with a company again if their complaint is resolved.

For example, this shopper wrote a one-star review for a vacuum cleaner, explaining her frustrations with her new machine.Purchase Regret - Negative Business Review Example

The brand responded by offering some helpful tips to get the vacuum running better, as well as an invitation to contact them for further assistance.Brand Response - Helpful Tips

These tips will (hopefully) help the reviewer. What’s more, future shoppers will see the response to the negative review, which will help shape their impression of the business. The BrightLocal survey we mentioned earlier found that 97% of consumers that read reviews also read business’ responses to reviews. 

Thoughtful responses to negative reviews will show current and future shoppers that you’re a brand that cares about its customers and values their feedback. If you’re not already, now’s the time to start responding to negative reviews. If you’re a Reputation Studio customer, you can easily respond to all negative reviews from one platform -- regardless of where the reviews were written.

→ Access Now: Negative Feedback Creates Positive Change [Free Guide]

2. Ask Happy Customers to Update their Negative Reviews

Let’s say you respond publicly to a negative business review, connect with the customer via phone to get more details, and successfully resolve their issue. What next?

Ask the customer to update their negative review. In many cases, they’ll be happy to do so. A Harris survey found that a third of customers that get a response to a negative review will go on to post a positive review. And 34% will delete the original negative review. 

For example, this Amazon customer originally wrote a review for a portable charger, indicating he was “pretty disappointed” in the product. But if you read on, you’ll see he updated his review (twice) raving about the great customer service he received after writing his negative review).Negative Reviewer Edits

3. Use Negative Feedback to Improve

Reviews -- especially negative ones -- are full of insights that can help you improve your products and the experiences your customers have with your company. And by making these improvements, you’ll be better equipped to win and retain more customers. 

For example, this customer purchased a jacket from an athletic brand. In her review, she noted that the zipper broke after just one wash. Of course, this might be a one-off issue. But if the brand notices several reviews that mention broken zippers, there might be a larger quality issue that needs to be addressed. This is an opportunity for the brand to work with the manufacturer to improve the product to better meet customer expectations. 

Insights from Negative Reviews

Negative reviews can also help companies identify ways to improve their customers’ experience. For example, this customer wrote a one-star review for a Lowe’s Home Improvement store location, indicating the store “is not practicing any COVID safety measures…” This is an opportunity for the retailer to look for ways to improve their safety protocols, especially if this is a common theme in their store reviews.

Lowe's Safety Protocols Review

Identifying the actionable insights that are hidden in reviews can be a clunky process. But if you’re a Reputation Studio customer, you have access to robust AI-driven sentiment and intent analytics that can help you improve your products and the customer experience.

→ Access Now: Negative Feedback Creates Positive Change [Free Guide]

4. Recognize that Negative Business Reviews Help you Build Consumer Trust

Today’s shoppers know that a single product can’t be all things to all people. So when there aren’t any negative reviews for a product, it makes them suspicious. In fact, research from PowerReviews found that nearly half of Centennial shoppers (defined as those born between 1994 and 2010) don’t trust a product’s reviews if there are no negative reviews present.

What’s more, research from Northwestern University found that shoppers are most likely to purchase products that have an average star rating between 4.0 and 4.7, as those with a perfect 5-star rating as seen as “too good to be true.” 

No business wants to display negative reviews. But by doing so, you’re showing your shoppers that you’re a trusted brand that has nothing to hide. And consumers will be more willing to buy from a brand they trust.

5. Remember that Negative Reviews Fuel Smart Purchase Decisions

Sifting Through Negative Reviews to Find Use Case

The PowerReviews report we mentioned earlier found that 85% of shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews. Why? Because negative reviews help shoppers identify the products that will (and won’t) meet their needs. When shoppers are able to make more informed purchase decisions, they’re less likely to return the products they buy. And that’s great news for your bottom line.

For example, let’s say a consumer is in the market for a styling product for her thick, curly hair. She finds this product -- No Frizz Nourishing Styling Cream -- that looks promising. It’s got an average star rating of four stars, with lots of glowing reviews. The shopper digs into the content of the reviews. The four and five star reviews are primarily from consumers with straight hair. Then, she filters to just see one-star reviews. When she does this, she notices several of the negative reviews specifically mention the product doesn’t work well on curly hair. Thanks to this information, the shopper keeps looking for a product that’ll better fit her needs -- and the brand avoids an unnecessary return. 

Again, businesses never aim to get negative reviews. But displaying this content actually benefits both the consumer and the brand. It goes to show that the impact of negative business reviews isn’t always bad.

Start Responding to Negative Reviews

Negative business reviews are never the goal for businesses. After all, this content has the potential to cause some serious damage. 

But there’s no reason to lose sleep over the occasional negative review. By handling negative reviews the right way, you can win back customers, find ways to improve and build trust with your shoppers. 

Negative Feedback eBook

Negative Reviews